|Review: Samsung Galaxy Tab 4
(10.1-inch / Wi-Fi Only version)
May 5, 2014
of you may remember the days of NCSA Mosaic. I remember
that, too. A lot has changed since then. The Internet
has become more consumer-oriented.
Whether this is good
or bad depends on your perspective, and the intended use of your
computing device. For better or worse, the tablet and the
smartphone represent major steps in this "consumer
Internet". They are geared more toward entertainment and
browsing than content creation.
There are quite a few
tablets on the market now. I've never been a major fan of tablet
computing, or smartphones, but I wondered if the new Samsung Galaxy Tab 4 could change my mind.
Let's briefly compare the Galaxy Tab 3 with the Galaxy Tab 4.
Tab 3 10.1
Android 4.2 Jelly Bean
Intel Atom Z2560 1.6 GHz dual-core processor
1.0 GB RAM
1280x800 screen resolution
Weight: 17.9 ounces
List price: $399
Tab 4 10.1
Android 4.4 Kit Kat
Qualcomm 1.2 GHz quad-core processor
1.5 GB RAM
1280x800 screen resolution
Weight: 17.2 ounces
List price: $349 (you can buy it discounted here)
raw CPU frequency of the Tab 4 is a bit slower, but it's more than
offset by the quad-core CPU. The Tab 4 10.1 is also just a
bit lighter than the Tab 3, but you will probably not notice it (0.7
Samsung Galaxy Tab 4 10.1
the Galaxy Tab 4 after spending years on a desktop computer, there I
was wondering where the heck they hid the File and Edit menus on the
web browser. That's a bit frustrating, but it's to be expected
for tablet computers.
The "long press" is supposed to be
the equivalent of a right click, and sometimes it gives useful options
on the Galaxy Tab 4. It takes a while to figure out when you can
and can't do a useful long-press, but I guess the same thing could have
been said for mouse right-clicking.
In some ways, though, I'm
quickly reminded that a tablet computer is just never going to be a
desktop. Where's the "File ---> Save As"? Where's
the "Edit ---> Copy ---> Paste"? Where
are the keyboard shortcuts? Where's the command-line
terminal? Where are all the numerous things I could do with a
regular mouse and keyboard?
Yep. They're not there,
mostly. You can use a Bluetooth mouse with the Tab 4, though, but
I didn't try it. Right out of the box, the feeling was sort of
"Neat, but I want my Linux netbook."
The Samsung Galaxy Tab 4,
like other tablets, is primarily a device for consuming media rather
than creating it. It starts at the interface level, because
without a two-button mouse and a keyboard, there's only so much you can
Then again, as you begin to learn the UI on this machine, you can see it's got a lot of neat features.
just an example: Customizing your desktop, which on the Tab 4 is
called the "Home" space. At first I could not figure out
how to put the icons I wanted. Doing a couple of long-presses on
different icons, I found that I could move them around or drag them to
different desktops or screens. Ah, now we're getting somewhere.
Long-press on your icons and you can drag them to different desktop
spaces. Great for getting those unwanted apps off your main screen.
Actually, that reminds me of a big reason why I'd recommend the Galaxy Tab 4 over an Apple iPad: the Galaxy Tab 4 is much easier to customize. You can do more with it if you're a power user.
helps if you have a stylus for this tablet, but it's not strictly
necessary. Unless you have big fingers. (Pick up a pack of
cheap styli here, or better quality ones through this link.)
one gripe about the Galaxy Tab 4's interface. It's too easy to
tap accidentally on something. The Samsung Galaxy Tab 4 will from
time to time present you with dialog boxes. Some of these will
ask you to make important privacy decisions. Great that they're
at least telling you, but I've noticed it's all too easy to tap on the
wrong thing here and "accept" something you didn't agree to. Just
for example: the Samsung virtual keyboard tries to guess what
you're going to type, and by default it also wants to guess personal
information and passwords. So you have to carefully uncheck the
box, but in the meantime you could easily tap it accidentally.
Annoying. Even if you know it's touchy, it's a bit too easy to
click something you didn't want to.
Overall, though, the unit is
pretty good at explaining what it's planning to do, what's going to be
shared, etc. There are a lot of options, even if they're not
immediately obvious because maybe you're accustomed to a mouse-keyboard
interface with its context menus.
and advertisers have always tried to gather more and better information
about would-be customers. In the Internet era, it's about
gathering that info from browsing habits, buying habits, and that sort
On the tablet PC, this whole game has been stepped up
a little bit. Now it's easier to get corraled into a situation
where you have to agree to the data harvesting. To download apps,
for example, you have to go through either Google Play or the Samsung
App Store. There might be another way, but it's definitely not
obvious. Each of these app stores has their own set of privacy
If you use the Internet much, you've probably already assented to Google's agreement, but now Samsung?
They make electronics, but they want your data. Who's next, the garbageman?
read through their agreement, and even though they're saying they won't
disclose your info to third parties "for their own independent
marketing or business purposes", there's an exception where they can do
that with Samsung affiliates. I don't even know who all those
That in itself is kind of par for the course in today's Internet, but on certain devices from Samsung there's "automatic content recognition" (ACR). I first learned about it here.
ACR is where it gets really invasive, because it basically monitors the
content of the media you watch, in order to gather richer data and form
more comprehensive advertising profiles. Does the Galaxy Tab 4
have ACR? I'm not sure yet, but I wouldn't be surprised.
I'll update this review when I find out more.
Here we are:
the Internet, 2014... a patchwork of overlapping privacy agreements
that eventually leaks all your information to advertisers
everywhere. With a desktop or laptop, power users can avoid the
worst of it, but with tablet PC's you're pretty much funneled into it.
almost at the diametric opposite of where the Internet was twenty
years ago: it required more skill and knowledge to use, but at
least you didn't have to trade away your data in exchange for the basic
functions. I'm not saying that Samsung is any worse than
any of the rest, by the way. I predict you'll see Automatic
Content Recognition and similar technologies trying to happen more
often in the future, unless too many people complain.
with a tablet PC, the "sharing" thing is ingrained into the whole user
experience. It's all too easy to tap accidentally on the "share"
icon when in fact you wanted the "trash" icon. I could do without
This is mostly a photography website, so it's natural that I'd pay a lot of attention to the camera specs.
been said often that megapixels don't matter, so maybe you could excuse
the 3-megapixels or so that this camera offers. I've had lots of
good use from a 4-megapixel point & shoot, and I even have a couple
of 1-megapixel gems kickin' around. So, the camera on the Galaxy
Tab 4 should in theory be passable.
While it sort of feels like
something from 2005, the pictures are not bad. Outdoor
photography is going to be your best way to use this camera, as long as
there's no bright sunlight to glare off the screen.
Here's a sample pic, taken during what was probably my 220th blocked sunset in a row. Click for the full-size image.
Samsung Galaxy Tab 4 10.1
3-megapixel rear-facing camera
The photos are 16:9 aspect ratio.
If you're semi-serious into photography, you'd do better with a good point & shoot like the Canon SX260, which is actually quite good in low light (for what it is). Actually, even a Canon SX150
may do better for you than the camera on the Galaxy Tab 4.
That said, the Tab 4's camera is passable for scenery pictures, and
even the occasional indoor photo. Just know that there's
going to be some chroma noise and blotching. You can begin to see
it in the full-size image (click, above), but it will be more
pronounced in your indoor photos.
Here's another thing you
should know about the camera. It's not so great for close-up
(portrait) shots of your new baby or your pets, because the focusing
distance is a little too far. So, the pillows on the couch in the
background will be in focus, but baby will not, unless you move him /
her back a little ways from the camera lens. It's not a huge,
huge issue, but I just thought you should know about it. (I'm
accustomed to using a DSLR that has a pretty close-focusing lens on it,
so I kind of notice this stuff.)
For the intended purpose
(sharing images on social networks, etc), even the too-close blurry
pics will probably be acceptable, because you'll be resizing them down
to, say, 720 pixels wide.
Browsing the Web
It's not too hard to get this tablet connected to the 'net if
you have a Wi-Fi network. The one catch is that if you're using
static IP addresses, you'd better get it set up for that before you
start entering your long Wi-Fi password, because otherwise it will
erase the password and you'll have to start over again.
The Google functionality sort of permeates the whole
experience, as you'd expect from an Android machine. Google
offers to back up all apps and personal data on their servers,
including your Wi-Fi passwords. Ummm, no thanks.
pretty easy to make shortcuts to your favorite websites on the desktop,
though I can't remember the exact procedure. I think it involved
tapping on the Favorites icon at the right-hand side of the address
bar, and choosing from the option menu. Pretty sure that's what I
did. (By the way, it's not called a "desktop" here, it's called
Here again, I greatly missed the File and Edit menus
that are normally found on a web browser. The tablet is more like
an oversized smartphone than like a computer. Again, it's more of
a passive browsing experience. Form definitely wins out over
function here, but what do you expect from tech companies that are
always trying to push the "next big thing"?
as we know them now will be obsolete. The future ones will be
voice activated. Then, those will become obsolete, because
eventually they will be thought-activated. The whole thing will
be contained in a wristwatch-sized computer and it will project its
screen on a wall, or maybe into the air as a hologram, like Princess
Leia in Star Wars. Or maybe it will project itself onto your
retinas (which I'd find a bit too invasive, and what if it
malfunctioned, but you get the idea.) So let's don't get too
attached to all this "Next Big Thing" stuff, because even if you reach
a level of contentment, the tech companies never will. (I
like my 1980's film camera and my rotary phone from 1959, both from
yard sales. If it works well, and I like it, there's no need for
More about Web browsing:
Tablets in general have more privacy concerns than desktops or
laptop computers (unless the desktops & laptops are using
Windows......). So, the first thing I'd recommend is to go
and download Mozilla Firefox.
You can then type "about:config" into the URL bar and change some
privacy settings. Turn off "geo", "keyword", and "search
suggest", to name a few. Another thing you can do with Firefox is
get some browser extensions such as Ghostery, which will help block trackers. You should do this.
you play around with this tablet for a couple days, the web browsing
experience will feel pretty natural. I still like the desktop /
laptop way better, but the tablet is actually pretty cool.
for some reason you don't care about all this privacy stuff, and you
don't care what you have to agree to, the other apps could be just what
you always needed. Listening to music, watching TV, relaxing and
taking in your favorite advertisements... these are easy enough to do
with the Galaxy Tab 4. Just know that as of now, the Galaxy Tab
does not have as much of an app selection as the Apple products do.
One of the Galaxy Tab's biggest strengths, to me at least, is that it has a Kindle reader
app. The highly reflective LCD screen is pretty much useless for
reading on the beach, but if you're sitting indoors and you're not near
a bright window, then it will suffice.
The Galaxy Tab 4 supports Adobe Flash player, which as far as I
know, the iPad doesn't. (The best thing for video content creators
would be to move toward HTML 5 video, but right now Flash is still very
common.) If you like to watch YouTube videos on a portable device, I
reckon the Galaxy Tab 4 is your tablet.
read that Adobe Flash Player is no longer supported for mobile
OS's. In fact, a reader emailed me because her Galaxy Tab 4
gave an error message that it didn't support Adobe Flash Player.
The Galaxy Tab 4 is still listed as having Android 4.4,
though. That means you should be able to find a version of Flash
that will work with it. It would not be the current version,
which is what the tablet is probably trying to download. I think
what you'd have to do is search around on the Adobe website for earlier
versions of Flash. I believe you can still download them
from Adobe. (How to do this on a tablet PC I'm not sure
yet, because I'm so accustomed to a desktop computer.)
SD Card Storage
happy about being able to store files locally on an SD card, because my
initial choice (the Kindle Fire HDX) doesn't allow that. I know a
lot of companies want people to use "the cloud", but when they take
away the ability to store data locally, the whole thing starts to look
creepy. I for one could do without The Cloud, except maybe
for storing mp3's and Kindle books.
The MicroSD card is
auto-detected by the tablet. Just make sure to unmount it before
you eject the card. This is one area where they could have made
the feature more conspicuous. I had to hunt around on the top bar
and can't even remember just how I got to the SD card "umount"
Because it has a micro SD card slot, you could use this tablet to share
your higher-quality photos from another camera, if so inclined. You
can also use the microSD to back up your stuff, which I think is a lot
better and less invasive than requiring users to back it up to someone
else's server bank.
messing around with this thing for quite a while (don't ask me exactly
how long), the Samsung Galaxy Tab 4 10.1 was still at 70%
battery. That was long enough browse the Web for a while, watch
two or three YouTube vids, and take the tablet out for an attempted
sunset photo or three. Then back home for a bit more Web browsing
and playing around with the MicroSD storage. So, my basic
impression: even though I haven't sat and measured it, the battery seems to last a while.
The Galaxy Tab 4 is actually a lot of fun.
Aside from the privacy issues typical of any tablet computer or
smartphone, I can't find anything major to dislike about this
tablet. In fact, I like the Galaxy Tab 4 a lot, and coming from a
person who doesn't even like tablets or smartphones, that should tell
The customizability is a big plus. It's never going to be an
adequate replacement for the mini-laptop or
netbook, but the user experience is overall very pleasant.
hope you found this article helpful. Please help me keep this website on-line by
purchasing any of your gear through the links on my
website, such as this one
to buy your Samsung Galaxy Tab 4. (Just know that right
now, the Tab 4 is in pretty heavy demand, so there's a bit of a wait to
get one. Order now so you can set the ball rolling!)
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